Many university students in the United States thought they would get through the final weeks of the 2021-2022 school year without another COVID-19 restriction.
That is no longer the case for some.
Major universities in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Texas recently put pandemic restrictions back in place. Many are once again requiring face coverings.
In Washington, D.C., Howard University moved its classes back online.
At Rice University in Texas, leaders told students to cancel any large parties.
These and other rules come about three weeks before many universities hoped to hold graduation events without restrictions.
Another year of restrictions
For some students, it is the third straight year of COVID-related restrictions.
Nina Heller is a third-year student at American University in Washington, D.C. When the school year started last August, she said many people thought “we’re nearing the tail end” of the pandemic. “That didn’t quite happen,” Heller said.
Most universities removed mask-wearing requirements earlier in 2022, after the fast spread of the Omicron variant ended. But a new version of Omicron is now spreading, especially in the northeastern part of the U.S. The new variant is known as BA.2.
For a short time in April, the city of Philadelphia brought back mask requirements. Universities there, including Temple and the University of Pennsylvania, followed along. While Philadelphia removed the mask requirement, the universities kept it in place on campus.
At Williams College in Massachusetts, some professors permitted students to come to class without masks beginning in April. But after less than a week, the university put a new requirement in place.
More students sick
Kitt Urdang is a third-year student at Williams. Urdang said many friends are getting sick. Urdang said they were “dropping like flies.” “There’s definitely been a lot more uncertainty” in recent days, the student added.
In Washington, D.C., Howard’s campus was quiet last week. Students studied for their final exams and took classes from home. The number of COVID-19 cases in D.C. increased by 100 percent in April. The university has not said if it will change plans for graduation, set to take place May 7.
Lia DeGroot is a student at George Washington University, also in D.C. She said she never stopped wearing her mask and that returning to face coverings is “a relatively small thing to do.”
More than just masks
Other universities, such as Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, are asking students to take COVID-19 virus tests two times a week. At New Mexico State University, students are now required to have a COVID-19 vaccine by July 1 instead of showing a negative virus test each week.
Anita Barking is a leader of the COVID-19 task force for the American College Health Association. She said “the pandemic is still with us.” She said that even if students would like it to be over, that is just “wishful thinking.”
But many students are thinking that way.
Neeraj Sudhakar is working on an advanced degree in engineering at Columbia University in New York City. Sudhakar said most students there are vaccinated. The student said: “I think we just need to move on with the pandemic and treat it as endemic rather than going back to what we were doing the past two years.”
I’m Dan Friedell.
The Associated Press wrote this story. Dan Friedell adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
graduation – n. the act of receiving a diploma from a school or university
tail end –n. the last part of something
variant – adj. different from others of the same kind
campus – n. the buildings that make up a school or university
drop like flies – expression. used to describe something that is happening quickly and in large numbers, related to a sickness or death
negative – adj. not showing the presence of a germ or infection
endemic – adj. common or existing often